February 16, 2018

Are You Capturing the eReader Holiday Boom?

You know that I’m all about positioning the relevance of libraries. I think about that all day long. Did you also know that after this holiday season the guess is that there will be 40 million eReaders in the hands our customers? How can libraries position ourselves in this powerful and quickly changing marketplace? And what happens if we don’t think strategically and capitalize on this trend?

I don’t know the answers to all those questions, but I can share with you how — in three short weeks (and at holiday time) every department came together to build a response to the eReader trend. Here’s what we did:

1. Website: we understand that the true point of sale for our customers is our website. That’s where they are looking for a quick understanding of “I-got-a-Nook-how-do-I-download” answer. So we focused on select readers that are compatible with our eReader content and built webpages to answer just that question. We carefully limited our audience to new eReader owners who are looking for downloadable book titles. This arena of eReaders is so complex, we didn’t want to be overwhelmed by all the details. Our guiding principle: less is more!

2. Promotion: one of the obstacles we identified is that few customers are even aware of the availability of eReader titles. So we capitalized on our large Facebookaudience and assumed this audience is probably most comfortable with technology and therefore adaptive to eReaders. We took polls, we promoted content, we engaged fans in the conversation. We also sent this email to selected zip codes to heighten awareness and posted this video wherever we could.

3.  Genius Bar: at two of our locations (a large suburban and Main Library) we built mobile display tables on which are (securely!) attached the seven eReaders that are compatible with our eBooks, so that customers can have hands-on experience with them and can bring in their own device to a download station.

4. Lastly — and we all know most importantly — we had to educate our staff on these devices. We prepared extensive training videos (see one below) using our own staff. In particular we made it a point in these videos to demonstrate that 1)we didn’t have all the answers sewn up; 2) that is ok (even though a shift in our usual philosophy.) We’ve worked hard to manage the change and transition for staff because ,as in all thing, we have early adapters and those reluctant to change. We created glossaries, customer handouts, you name it.

I share all this with you because we ramped up very fast and all of us learned quickly. The least we can do is share whatever we have with you.  So 1) if you need copies of any of this, first check out the links and videos above, then contact me if you need more; 2) share here what you are doing so that we can all float together!

Alison Circle About Alison Circle

Alison Circle is director of marketing communications for Columbus Metropolitan Library. Previously she was an Account Director at Jack Morton Worldwide, a global branding agency, and her primary client was Target Stores. Prior to that she was the National Marketing Director for Minnesota Public Radio and "A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor." She has advanced degrees in English and Fine Arts, and is a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts grant.



  1. Jacqueline Seewald says:

    A very interesting discussion. Librarians do need to understand the e-book revolution and help readers become savvy as well. I blogged December 15th on Author Expressions on the subject of perfect gifts (which I consider to be books among other things). I asked readers to comment on what they would like as holiday presents. The response was largely that they would like Kindles and/or Amazon certificates. I have to admit that surprised me a bit.

    I have always preferred print and still do. However, I just dealt with a reputable independent publisher who placed my YA novel STACY’S SONG on a variety of e-book formats as well as trade paperback. And I am pleased with the results.

  2. Love this post! You folks are doing great work at CML. Thanks for sharing. -Nancy

  3. Very informative, but the sound was terrible.

  4. Great post, Alison, and the timing is perfect. Here at the Delaware County District Library, we are ramping up for eBooks and eReaders as well, and I’ve been appointed as the “front man” for this project. I think like a lot of librarians right now, we’re feeling a bit overwhelmed by the public’s response to and interest in what’s becoming an eBook revolution, so any help that’s available is greatly appreciated. Your post also goes a long way in helping me and the rest of the DCDL staff target our direction. Thank you! –Stephen

  5. Very informative post, Alison! I’m hoping you can share more information about the Genius Bars CML has set up.
    We’d like to explore that sort of option for our patrons within the South Central Library System here in Wisconsin but have some technical questions (Adobe Digital Editions issues among others).
    Is there more information or a contact person at the library you could share?

    • Alison Circle says:

      We are happy to share everything we’ve learned. We are trying to get this info linked on our ereader website, but that will take a bit of time. Feel free to email your questions to me directly. We have tons of information we can share: acircle@columbuslibrary.org